Bahrain refutes media reports of plans for ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria

Bahrain Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa. © Hamad I Mohammed
In an interview to RT Arabic, the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain, Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, has denied media reports that Manama is planning to send ground troops to Syria.

Media outlets including Reuters have cited the kingdom’s ambassador to the UK, Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, who allegedly claimed his country will send troops to Syria “with the approval of Saudi Arabia.” Last week, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) stated their readiness to join the ground operation in Syria to fight Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“The statement made by the Bahraini ambassador in London was misunderstood. Our ambassador did not say that Bahrain plans to send or is even ready to send its ground troops to Syria or any other country to fight terrorism,” Khalid Al Khalifa told RT Arabic. “Bahrain is true to its commitment to fighting terrorism, within the framework of the international coalition established in October 2014.”

However, Bahrain does not wish to be part of a ground operation in Syria:“We take great interest in the stability of the brother nation [of Syria] and the expulsion of terrorists from its land. In this regard, the international community must have full mutual understanding, and understand our position on the need to fight internationally recognized terrorists of all colors.”

“Syria is a great global problem and the leading powers must find common ground on how to solve it. We will continue to be part of the international effort to establish peace in the region,” the minister concluded.

Ahmed Asiri, official advisor to the Saudi defense minister, said Thursday that the country was ready to send troops to take part in ground operations in Syria, provided that the move was in accord with the international coalition led by the United States. He suggested that this decision can be agreed upon at the NATO summit in Brussels next week. US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter confirmed that the NATO summit is set to discuss the initiative of Saudi Arabia with the country’s representatives.

Citing sources within the kingdom, British newspaper the Guardian earlier reported that Riyadh could send several thousand soldiers to Syria to fight IS. According to the paper, the operation could be carried out in coordination with Turkey.

CNN has reported that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are preparing up to 150,000 troops for a possible operation in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Russian operation in the country – which started at the end of September at the request of President Bashar Assad – continues to carry out airstrikes targeting terrorist sites. With the support of militias and Russian airstrikes, the Syrian Army has managed to destroy the main IS stronghold in the city of Salma, in Latakia province, on the border with Turkey, and in the towns of Sheikh Miskin and Osman in the south. Last week, a four-year blockade was lifted in Noubel and az-Zahra – two Shiite cities in the province of Aleppo.